I used to drink in love like it was a poorly brewed cup of tea handed to me in a social situation in which my Southern-bred manners would not allow me to refuse.
I drank it down because it was offered, because it was polite, because I didn’t know that I could simply decline it with a polite no, thank you, and move on. I drank it with the artificial sweeteners I loathe or with no sweetness at all because it was offered, because it was polite, and because I did not know that I could simply decline it.
I sipped love in small sips, not knowing that it wasn’t love at all but a poor imitation presented to me in a chipped cup made in China and trembling in its mismatched saucer.
But I am a Southern woman raised without the cotillions, the flounced skirts, and puffed sleeves, without the corsets and perfumed handkerchiefs.
Same Southern heat though, our brows dewy with the humidity that comes from being deep in Tennessee or Georgia or some Southern place like it where the heat is as thick as the mosquitoes and where the voices move slow and thick like molasses. Where we’re taught to be polite, but we also learn grit and persistence. Where we only drink our tea sweet and don’t understand drinking it any other way.
It’s strange how easily that sense of manners once overrode that grit.
How I accepted love brewed weak and served tepid with the artificial sweet tang of lies. But Southern women have spines of steel when we remember to use them, and somewhere along the way I became Scarlet O’Hara with a fist raised to the sky shouting, “As God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
I began declining love served too weak for my strength.
I want a love like Southern tea made right.
I want it hot, strong, and sweet. I want it brewed in just the right time, and I want it to be real.
Why should we settle for imitations of the real thing or sweet nothings that are merely dressed up lies told to get us out of the corsets we no longer wear at cotillions where we no longer dance?
Why should we settle for anything less than real love? Why shouldn’t our love be as strong as our tea? It should be thick with desire, strong, loyal, and just as sweet as we deserve. We should accept it only if we want it, not out of some sense of being polite and doing the right thing.
Sure, we’re not all raised in the sticky heat of the Southern Bible belt, and we don’t all want the same thing in a partner- be it man or woman. And maybe you don’t drink your tea sweet and don’t understand people who do.
But I think we can all understand wanting a love that is enough, and perhaps many of us have experienced what it’s like to settle for ones that aren’t. We deserve better than that, and maybe we weren’t raised with grit or have spines that have been more spaghetti than steel along the way. But there’s a time when we need to stop being purely polite and instead focus on finding souls that resonate with our own.
We should all be lucky enough to find a love served as hot, strong, and sweet as Southern tea made to my exacting specifications.
We should all declare that we will never go back to sipping on love like it’s our duty out of chipped cups with lies stirred in as easy as you please. If we won’t stand for weak tea (or watered down liquor or flat soda), why would we ever stand for weak love?
It’s one of those questions to ponder one soft morning with steam rising out of a china cup sitting perfectly at ease on its saucer as the sun pours in from the windows and a book sits by our side, just waiting to be opened.
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